Mhancha, a traditional Moroccan pastry filled with almonds and perfumed with orange-blossom water, is the perfect way to finish off your Moroccan banquet. Traditionally, a thin pastry called warka is used for this dish, but you can substitute filo.
- 16 sheets filo pastry
- 1 egg yolk, lightly whisked with 1 tbsp cold water
- 80 g unsalted butter, melted
- 150 g honey, warmed
- icing sugar, ground cinnamon and white sesame seeds, to sprinkle
- 500 g blanched almonds
- 150 g caster sugar
- 2 tbsp orange-blossom water (see Note)
- 150 g unsalted butter, softened
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Preheat oven to 200°C. To make almond filling, place almonds and sugar in a food processor and blend to a paste, add orange-blossom water and process until combined.
Place butter and almond paste in a saucepan over medium heat and cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes or until slightly darker in colour. Remove from heat and cool completely. Add egg yolk and cinnamon and mix to a firm paste.
Shape almond filling into 8 x 33 cm-long, 3 cm-thick logs. Working with one sheet of pastry at a time, and keeping the others covered with a lightly dampened tea towel, brush lightly with egg yolk mixture and top with another sheet. Place 1 almond log in the centre and roll pastry around to enclose. Continue process with remaining pastry and logs.
Working with one log at a time, shape into a tight spiral on an oven tray, then continue with remaining logs, pressing ends together, to make one large spiral. Brush evenly with melted butter and bake for 20 minutes or until golden. Brush with honey. Cool completely then dust with icing sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
• Orange-blossom water is from specialist and Middle Eastern food shops.
Photography Tom Donald
As seen in Feast magazine, October 2014, Issue 36.